Checkerboard Tarts

Cauliflower and Broccoli Checkerboard Tarts

Wotchers!

This recipe is all about simplicity, and enjoying the delicate flavours of two of my favourite vegetables: beautiful florets of cauliflower and broccoli nestled in crisp shortcrust pastry, delicately seasoned with a light and creamy egg custard.

Underneath the eye-catching exterior, it is a broccoli and cauliflower quiche, but with a slightly different approach and a few minutes devoted to presentation, it can be quite the showstopper.

The pastry base is baked completely, for maximum crispness, the creamy egg filling is poured in and the briefly blanched vegetables are then arranged in a delightful checkerboard pattern. Covering the whole with a tight seal of foil allows the vegetables to cook to al-dente perfection while the custard sets, without becoming discoloured from the heat of the oven. The vegetable stalks, nestled in the creamy filling, cook through perfectly, and the florets gently steam in the resulting moisture, retaining their bright colour.

It can be served warm or cold, as an accompaniment or a side dish. It slices beautifully and thus can be enjoyed as an an usual addition to a picnic hamper.

Cross-section of Checkerboard Tart

Best of all, although possibly not for those of you who love the rigid formality of recipes, it can be made in whatever size and shape you like. Originally, I only planned the large size, but in trimming the florets to even sizes, found myself with numerous smaller, but still perfectly-formed florets, and so made smaller tarts, and even tiny individual ones too.

Small Checkerboard Tart
Individual Checkerboard Tarts

The only limit is how prepared you are for the sometimes fiddly process of arranging the florets. My solution for minimising the Faff™ is to, in the first instance, arrange the florets in the empty pastry case, then remove them in rows and lay them neatly in order to one side, add the filling to the tart case, then lift the florets back into position in rows. Should you have a mishap, and one or more of your florets tumble into the filling, take a moment to rinse off the egg mixture otherwise the overall effect will be spoiled.

A mentioned above, the main enjoyment comes from the delicate flavours, but you could also add other ingredients to the filling, if you’d like to turn up the taste volume.

Checkerboard Tarts

The quantities are, to a large extent, dictated by the size and number of tarts you want to make. The unused vegetables can be stored in the fridge for several days and then steamed for a just five minutes before serving as accompaniments to other meals. Be sure to get the freshest, whitest cauliflower and the firmest, crispest broccoli (the florets should not move when you poke them) for maximum colour and visual impact.

1-2 fresh, white cauliflower
2-3 large florets of broccoli
shortcrust pastry – I prefer my cornflour shortcrust.
egg-white for glazing
500ml low-fat crème fraiche
2 large eggs
salt and pepper

  • Cut the vegetables into large florets and steam for five minutes over boiling water.
  • Put a clean cloth on a baking tray and lay the vegetables on top to cool. Set aside until required.
  • Prepare the baking tin. For the large tart I used a deep spring-form tin and laid the pastry only half-way up the sides. The vegetables also sat neatly inside the sides of the tin. For shallower tins, the vegetables will sit a little higher.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll the pastry out to a thickness of 5mm and line your baking tin. Trim the sides to a height of about 3cm. Poke holes in the bottom to let out the steam, using a fork.
  • Line the tin with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the parchment/beads/rice and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes until cooked through.
  • Whisk the egg-white until frothy, then use a pastry brush to ‘paint’ the inside of the tart with it thoroughly.
  • Return the tart case to the oven for two minutes to cook the egg-white. Set aside to cool.
  • Reduce the oven heat to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
  • Trim the vegetables to florets of even sizes of about 5cm. The exact size will be dictated by the size/shape of your tin. You want them to fit snugly together, to hold their shape.
  • Once the pastry case has cooled, arrange the florets in a pattern until it is full, to ensure you have sufficient florets prepared. You will probably need to trim the stalks to no longer than 3cm.
  • When your tart is full, carefully remove the florets and set them aside in rows, so they can easily be returned to the tart once the filling is added.
  • Whisk together the crème fraiche and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. If the tart is to be eaten cold, be generous with the seasoning, as flavours will be slightly muted when chilled.
  • Pour the filling into the pastry case to within 5mm of the top of the pastry. Arrange the blanched vegetables back into place.
  • Cover the tin tightly with foil and bake until the filling is set. For a large tin, this will be about 45 minutes, smaller tins around 35 minutes and mini tins 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin(s).

 

 


Picnic Loaves

Picnic Loaves
Wotchers!

In my quest to find tasty recipes for you, I often find myself poking round some odd corners of the internet. Recently, this has taken me to some delightful Russian blogs, where I found this week’s deliciousness.

It is for a flavour-filled picnic loaf, or snack loaf, seen on the left above and is one of the speediest mixings I’ve ever found – you can mix and bake this in about an hour. Additionally, many of it’s components are regular storecupboard or fridge dwellers, making it a snip to bake at short notice. I’ve called it a Picnic Loaf because I suspect the Russian title (Snack Cupcake) lost something in the Google-Translation. I’ve also made it a little healthier by substituting the original sour cream for low fat creme fraiche.

The texture is unusual in that it is incredibly light and tender, even with all the added flavourings, and when toasted, the crunchy outsides contrast deliciously with the soft interior of the slice. It is packed with regular protein – diced cheese and sausage – and texture and even more protein is achieved with the addition of cooked kidney beans, which are a real delight to bite into as well as eye-catching with their red skins and pale interiors.

Initially I was just going to post the one recipe, but then realised it would exclude all the non-meat eaters. Then I thought I could crack a joke by saying “Look, it’ a loaf for everyone: there’s sausage for the meat eaters, cheese for the vegetarians and beans for the vegans” but realised that would be in poor (yet still delicious) taste. So I decided to create a second, vegetarian version. Alas, with the dairy and eggs, making it vegan is a stretch too far, but that said, I’m really pleased with what I came up with, because I think it’s actually more delicious than the original.

Inspired by the addition of the kidney beans, and having a tin to hand, I set about creating something chick-pea based. After much metaphorical pencil-chewing, I was really struggling to come up with replacements for the cheese and the sausage, so I gave up that idea entirely and decided to make hummus bread: not to dip into, but a bread that tastes like hummus. With a little parsley for colour and a couple of trials tweaking proportions, it came out better than I had imagined. And toasted – it’s fantastic.

Sausage and Cheese Picnic Loaf

sausage cheese picnic loaf

You don’t need to be heading out on a picnic to make this, my daughter has been enjoying a couple of slices toasted as an after-school snack.

1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 x 200g smoked u-shaped sausage – diced
200g sharp cheese – I used vintage cheddar – diced

3 large eggs
200g low fat creme fraiche
200g mayonnaise
1tsp salt
250g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease a large loaf tin. I used this one (IKEA), to give a squarer slice, but a regular large loaf tin is also fine.
  • Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche and the mayonnaise.
  • Sift together the salt, flour and bicarbonate of soda, then add to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add the cheese, sausage and beans and stir briefly to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the tin around and bake for another 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edges and gently tip the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool. The sides will be browned but not crusty, so handle it carefully whilst hot.

Hummus Loaf

The method is practically the same as the loaf above, but I’ll write it out here as well, to save you from scrolling up and down.

1 x 400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed.
handful of roughly chopped flatleaf parsley

3 large eggs
100g tahini
50g olive oil
200g reduced fat creme fraiche
50g mayonnaise
1tsp garlic paste
2tbs lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 rounded tsp ground cumin
250g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease a large loaf tin. I used this one (IKEA), to give a squarer slice, but a regular large loaf tin is also fine.
  • Whisk together the wet ingredients: eggs, tahini, olive oil, creme fraiche, mayonnaise, garlic paste and lemon juice.
  • Sift together the salt, cumin, flour and bicarbonate of soda, then add to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add the parsley and chick peas and stir briefly to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the tin around and bake for another 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edges and gently tip the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool. The sides will be browned but not crusty, so handle it carefully whilst hot.